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The mission statement for Stripped!, a documentary by Dave Kellett (Sheldon) and Frederick Schroeder, is about forging a common history between webcomics and newspaper funnies. Not comic books, interestingly. I suppose that makes sense, as the most popular webcomics (xkcd, The Oatmeal and Penny Arcade) most closely resemble the four-panel forebears. It’s starting to become standard practice, by the way, to refer these sort of webcomics as “gag-a-day” or “short-form.”
Still, it’s a delight to explore this oft-neglected corner in the world of sequential art. The days of the celebrity cartoonists like Milton Caniff and Al Capp are long past, as depicted in archival footage where they were treated as major celebrities on early TV shows. However, the list of interviewees for Stripped! are still recognizable industry titans: Lynn Johnston. Jeff Smith. Greg Evans. Jim Davis. Mort Walker. Cathy Guisewite, who hilariously has the letters “AACK” hanging in her home. And one name that brings the directors to the point of fanboy glee, Bill Watterson … the first time he’s allowed his voice to be recorded. (Charles Schulz may no longer be with us, but his influential presence looms over the entire documentary.) It’s wonderful seeing the faces of the creators behind so many iconic characters. They gather here to reminisce, sharing crude doodles drawn as a child, their cherished influences, and the highs and lows of working under the syndicate system.
Ryan North’s (Dinosaur Comics, Adventure Time) Kickstarter for his illustrated prose book, To Be or Not To Be is way past being fully funded with 24 days still to go, so this isn’t a plea for action so much as it is a public service announcement. Because, dude …
North is putting together something that he can’t call Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for legal reasons, but totally is, only it’s for grown-ups, based on Hamlet, allows you to play as various characters including the ghost, and is illustrated by an insane line-up of artists like Kate Beaton, Chip Zdarsky, Chris Hastings, David Malki, Dustin Harbin, Jim Zubkavich, Kazu Kibuishi, Ray Fawkes, Vera Brosgol. … Seriously, I’m going to embarrass myself by leaving someone awesome out and the list is loooong. Check out the Kickstarter page for the full scoop.
$15 gets you a PDF copy, but $20 gets U.S. residents the PDF and a paperback copy too. Backers outside the U.S. are asked for a $30 pledge to cover shipping costs. And of course there are other goodies for pledging more.
Webcomics creators Ryan North and David Malki, along with writer Matthew Bennardo, spearheaded a prose anthology called Machine of Death, where each short story centered on a machine that told you when you would die. In addition to short stories by a variety of authors, it also included illustrations by folks like Kate Beaton, Kazu Kibuishi, Jeffrey Brown, Roger Langridge, Karl Kershl, Cameron Stewart and many more.
After being rejected by several publishers, they self-published the book last year and took the No. 1 best sellers spot on Amazon, beating out new books that week by Keith Richards, the Barefoot Contessa and Glenn Beck, among others.
Conventions | Early estimates place attendance three-day attendance at Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo at 34,000, up from 27,500 at last year’s inaugural event. “Last year was disappointing,” said Eric Thornton, manager of Chicago Comics. “But now you definitely see this starting to take hold.” [Chicago Tribune]
Retailing | Borders Group has announced it will close an additional 28 stores, bringing the total to 228. The bookseller, which filed for bankruptcy protection on Feb. 16, had used the possibility of as many as 75 closings as leverage to negotiate lease concessions. This latest wave will bring the chain’s remaining store total to about 400. [Media Decoder]
Publishers | Chicago-based publisher Archaia, which expects sales of $11 million this year, has raised capital from a group of investors with local connections. [Crain’s Chicago Business, via ICv2.com]
Machine of Death is an anthology of speculative short stories about people who know how (but not when) they are going to die. The book is edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo and David Malki, and somehow the three of them came up with a clever idea: They asked everyone who was planning to buy the book to do so on the day it was released, Oct. 26, so they could place high on the Amazon sales charts.
“When we picked a release date, we tried to aim for a day far from other major book releases,” the authors explain on their blog. In that, they failed spectacularly: A number of potential best-sellers came out that day, including Keith Richards’s autobiography, a new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and Glenn Beck’s latest book, Broke.
Nonetheless, the power of the internet is such that Machine of Death took the No. 1 spot on Amazon for that day.
While Keith Richards and the Barefoot Contessa seem to have taken this news with equanimity, it sent Beck into a spluttering, incoherent rage, and he went into a long rant on the air about the culture of death and Bill Ayers envying Keith Richards for snorting his father’s ashes, and not knowing what Brown Sugar refers to, and the general disrespect of “the left” for daring to buy other books on the day his book came out. (There’s a transcript and a link to the audio here.)
And as any public figure with half a brain can tell you, the effect has been exactly the opposite of what Beck intended. Rather than apologizing and buying two copies of his book, people have been laughing and pointing and, in some cases, buying extra copies of Machine of Death just to spite Glenn Beck. (Hey, it’s only ten bucks on Amazon.)
It’s damn hard to make me laugh, but I did laugh last month when I looked at Robot 6’s exclusive preview of David Malki !’s (yep there’s an exclamation point in his name) Wondermark Volume 3: Dapper Caps & Pedal-Copters. It happened most when I got to the ambitious talking baby in a stroller in the In Which It’s What Month Already? strip, where the baby lamented: “Still poopin’ where I freakin’ sleep!” In fact I still laugh when I look at that panel, no matter how many times. I had to get a perspective on Malki !’s creative mentality, so fortunately he agreed to an email interview. Here’s part of Dark Horse’s official summary of the project: “It’s Wondermark time again! Come along for the ride as Dark Horse returns to David Malki’s silly, bizarre, and hilarious world that’s not quite present day, not quite the Victorian era, and not like anything else you’ve seen before. (Unless you’ve read the previous Wondermark books, of course!) This newest volume of the Eisner-nominated series contains over one hundred comic strips originally published in The Onion and on wondermark.com, plus many pages of additional material by creator David Malki. More than just webcomic collections, the Wondermark books have been praised for their magnificent design and loads of extra content for casual readers and superfans alike.” My thanks to Malki ! for his time and for Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons for facilitating the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Okay, before getting into Wondermark, what led you to pursuits such as being a volunteer search & rescue pilot, or a freelance firearm specialist for film and television?
David Malki !: As a licensed pilot, I was a member of the Civil Air Patrol for a while, which is a volunteer organization whose main mission is to conduct aerial searches for downed planes after a crash is reported. A lot of times, when a small plane crashes in a remote area, there’s no way to know exactly where it went down (all we have is a radio signal), and if the pilot or passengers are injured, it’s important to find them right away. CAP pilots fly search missions in the area where the plane was last reported, and try to locate the site of the crash as quickly as possible.
Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics, we’re pleased to present a preview of the third collection of David Malki’s comic strip Wondermark. The strip appears online as well as in the print edition of The Onion.
Here’s a little more info on the quirky, funny strip:
It’s Wondermark time again! Come along for the ride as Dark Horse returns to David Malki’s silly, bizarre, and hilarious world that’s not quite present day, not quite the Victorian era, and not like anything else you’ve seen before. (Unless you’ve read the previous Wondermark books, of course!) This newest volume of the Eisner-nominated series contains over one hundred comic strips originally published in The Onion and on wondermark.com, plus many pages of additional material by creator David Malki. More than just webcomic collections, the Wondermark books have been praised for their magnificent design and loads of extra content for casual readers and superfans alike.
Check out the preview, which includes two exclusive pages, after the jump.